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Shane Parrish, author of Clear Thinking, suggests that we imagine our end. Picture lying in a hospital bed in your nineties. You’re unconscious, but you can hear what people are saying. Who’s in the room? What are they saying about you, thinking that you can’t hear?

Good exercise. Picturing one’s nineties helps: we will have moved beyond what David Brooks calls résumé virtues to eulogy virtues. “The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?”

I had a hard time picturing who might be around my bed in my nineties, beyond close family. But the kind of man I want to become is clear: with God’s help, I want to become a humble, godly, gracious old man.

I know I can’t get there on my own.

I’ve pastored long enough to have noticed a couple of things.

First, we set our trajectory early in life. At a young age, it’s relatively easy to hide the kind of person we’re becoming because. We’re still sowing the seeds of character, but the crop hasn’t grown yet. But, as I’ve observed older people, it’s easy to see the kind of person they’ve become. You reach a certain age at which you can no longer hide who you’ve truly become.

Second, I’ve noticed that not as many finish as well as we might like. I can think of many who do, but I can also think of many who stumble along the way or who gradually become less gracious, less humble, and less godly as they approach their older years.

Take King David. After his sin with Bathsheba, he was never the same. God forgave him, but his life and work was diminished. He reestablished his kingdom after his son’s rebellion, but few seemed excited by it, and it never regained its glory. 2 Samuel ends with God’s judgment, again, for another of David’s sins. On this deathbed, observes J. Gary MIllar, “The giant-killer (and Bathsheba-seducer) is now reduced to lying in bed with a beautiful woman, whose job it is simply to keep him warm.”

The older I get, the more I realize how unlikely it is for me to do any better than David. And so, when Parrish asked a crowd of us to close our eyes and picture who would open day surround us when we died, and what they’d say, I thought of those who reach that age and exude Christlikeness, and prayed again that I’d become someone who loved God more and who was gracious and godly in my interactions with others.

And so I keep looking at those who are getting better as they age. I’m trying to figure out how they maintain tender hearts toward God, and how they fight bitterness and despair. It’s not hard to spot such people, and I’m making a study of them.

And I’m praying: Lord, help me follow their example. The truth is that I want to prepare for something even more important than my deathbed. I want to prepare for the day I stand before Jesus. I want to prepare, with God’s help, to hear “well done.”